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S. Thomas Coleman

Whitewater, Houston County need Game 3 to decide Class AAAAA championship

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Whitewater and Houston County split the first two games of the Class AAAAA Final series, with each team winning in its last at-bat, and will play a deciding Game 3, Tuesday afternoon (2 p.m.) in Fayetteville.

In Game 2, Houston County staved off elimination, rallying from a 6-0 deficit to claim an 8-7 win in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Whitewater jumped out to a 6-0 lead on the strength of a five-run second inning. The Wildcats took advantage of a walk and an error in the inning, but also got five hits, including a two-run double by freshman Tyler Doanes and a two-out RBI single by senior Taylor Turner.

But Houston County scored five runs in the third, with the big hit – a three-run homer – coming from junior Andy Moore. The Bears tied the game 6-6 in the fourth on a solo homer by senior Blake Jackson, but Whitewater re-took the lead in the top of the ninth on a triple and an error that allowed senior Caleb Norton to circle the bases.

In the bottom of the ninth, Houston County tied the game 7-7 on four consecutive walks, and then senior Justin Jones singled sharply to left centerfield to plate the game winner.

In Game 1, Whitewater rallied for seven runs in the final two innings, capped by a game-winning three-run homer by Turner to lift the Wildcats to an 8-6 win.

Whitewater had just one run on two hits through five innings, as Houston County starting pitcher Jordan McIlwain wasn’t dominant but kept the Wildcats off balance, and the Bears led 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth. But in that half frame, the Wildcats scored four runs  to tie the game, as senior Nick Fuerstenau doubled in a run, senior Evan Mask singled home two more runs and senior Justin Trammell’s groundout plated the tying run.

Houston County retook the lead in the top of the seventh on a two-out, line drive single to center field by freshman Jake Fromm that scored junior Hunter Phillips, who had singled with one out, and advanced to second base on a ground out. Fromm was thrown out at second as he tried to move up on the throw to the plate.

The Bears sent  Jones to the mound in the bottom of the seventh to close the game, but he walked Doanes leading off the inning, and then hit Fuerstenau after enticing junior Brandon Bell to pop out. Turner then stepped up and drilled a two-two pitch just inside the left field foul pole, setting off a raucous celebration on the field by the Whitewater players and in the home bleachers. Houston County head coach Jason Brett disagreed vehemently with the third base umpire’s decision to rule the ball fair, slamming his hat to the ground several times.  The four umpires huddled briefly behind the pitcher’s mound to discuss the play, but upheld the original ruling.

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